Kiwifruit industry opens new frontiers in forklift safety

AI technology to sense pedestrians around forklifts is the centrepiece of a new safety commitment WorkSafe has accepted from a major player in the kiwifruit industry.

The commitment, known as an enforceable undertaking, was put forward by Trevelyan’s Pack and Cool Limited in Te Puke, where a worker was traumatically injured in April 2022. Trevelyan’s is New Zealand’s largest single-site kiwifruit and avocado packhouse.

The man was struck while walking behind a reversing forklift, and had his left leg and foot run over. When the driver moved the forklift forward, he ran over the victim’s foot a second time. Ultimately, the victim’s lower left leg could not be saved, and it was amputated below the knee.

WorkSafe’s role is to influence businesses to meet their responsibilities to keep people healthy and safe. Our investigation found Trevelyan’s traffic management plan for the site was deficient, with forklifts and workers clearly not kept separate.

“Forklifts are essential to the kiwifruit industry and we expect businesses to manage their risks. Where they don’t, we will take action. Harvest season brings heightened risks from more product movement, less space to work, and more people in close quarters,” says WorkSafe’s regulatory support manager, Catalijne Pille.

In response to the incident, Trevelyan’s has committed to delivering a series of safety initiatives worth half a million dollars, including:

  • An AI pedestrian detection system fitted to 40 forklifts to improve safety and reduce risks.
  • Collaborating with the kiwifruit industry to spread the uptake of this technology and enhance safety.
  • Investing in training to improve health and safety competency across the business.
  • Reparation to the victim.
  • Funding for the Amputee Society of Waikato, Bay of Plenty and Districts.
  • Funding scholarships for the Health and Safety Association of New Zealand.

“Artificial intelligence brings significant possibilities for health and safety innovation. In this case, it’s about using algorithms and sensors to detect nearby pedestrians to reduce the risk of accidents and enhance workplace safety. We hope to see the benefits extend beyond the kiwifruit industry,” says WorkSafe’s Catalijne Pille.

As a result of the undertaking, WorkSafe’s charges against Trevelyan’s were discontinued. WorkSafe will regularly monitor progress on the agreed initiatives and can resume prosecution if necessary.

“Trevelyan’s investment to improve safety in their workplace is the preferred solution in this case. It demonstrates a substantial commitment to health and safety which may not have been achieved by prosecution.”

Read the decision document

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